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From the archive, 16/08/1929: Readers of DH Lawrence defy ban on Pansies, his new poetry book


Unexpurgated version is illegally distributed by private society who believe his work should be available for posterity intact

"Pansies," Mr. D.H. Lawrence's book of poems which was recently stopped by Scotland Yard and not allowed to pass through the post, has been printed privately in London for 500 subscribers. This edition should not be confused with a volume containing many of the poems which is offered for public sale under the same title.

The subscription book contains the whole of the poems to which objection was taken. On the last page appears the following announcement: "This edition of five hundred copies is privately printed for subscribers only by P. R. Stephensen, 41, Museum Street, London. W.C.1."

Mr. Stephensen yesterday told a reporter the circumstances under which the private edition came to be issued.

"Five hundred of us," he said, "formed a private society, organised by myself, to print the book because we objected to the high-handed and illegal manner in which the manuscript was seized in the post, and also because we believe D. H. Lawrence is a genius whose works should be available for posterity intact. We took the view that this work might be regarded in the future as a masterpiece.

"The law is that works are to be considered indecent if they are likely to corrupt the morals of people into whose hands they are likely to come. All I have to prove to a magistrate is that I have taken all precautions to prevent the book falling into the hands of children or weak-minded persons - that is, assuming the book is indecent, which I deny.

"I have to earn my living as a publisher. Nowadays a publisher never knows which of his books is likely to be seized by some policeman who might be better occupied in regulating traffic.

"There must be some provision for the publication of a work which a publisher believes to be the work of a genius.

"The law allows the privilege of producing any work which we consider to be a work of genius irrespective of its formal indecency, providing that it is private and limited and that we take the precaution to see it is not offered publicly for sale. If this present case should happen to come before the courts I should most certainly press for a definition of obscenity for the guidance of publishers in general. A case in point is that "The Well of Loneliness" was banned by an English magistrate, but no objection was raised to its publication in America."

Mr. Stephensen stated that each book of "Pansies" was numbered, and bore the following statement signed in ink by D. H. Lawrence:- "This limited edition is printed complete following the original manuscript, according to my wish."

In the introduction to the poems Mr. Lawrence states: "Obscene means to-day that the policeman thinks he has the right to arrest you, nothing else. . . The words themselves are clean, so are the things to which they apply, but the mind drags in a filth association. Well, then, cleanse the mind, that is the real job."

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